NO sooner had Ricky Sbragia bought Sunderland time by winning his first game in caretaker charge, than Blackburn Rovers have potentially removed it.
The Premier League strugglers yesterday sacked manager Paul Ince just six months into a three-year contract and will quickly start searching for a replacement who can save them from relegation. Former manager Graeme Souness has his supporters on the Ewood Park terraces and its boardroom, but the directors are believed to be divided and if they can not agree on the former Newcastle United boss as their choice, the shortlist of alternatives may feature some of the names on Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn’s wish-list.
Having been inundated with applications for the Stadium of Light job, Quinn had been determined to take his time selecting Roy Keane’s replacement. The Black Cats’ form in Sbragia’s two games in charge – the 1-0 defeat at Manchester United and Saturday’s morale-boosting 4-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion – made that approach easier, and an appointment was not expected this side of Christmas.
Now Quinn must decide if he can afford to be so thorough and potentially risk seeing the man he wanted to take the job installed as boss of one of Sunderland’s relegation rivals.
Names mentioned as possible candidates for the Rovers job included Cardiff City’s Dave Jones, Alan Shearer, Gerard Houllier, Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley, Roberto Mancini and Avram Grant. Mancini, Houllier, Curbishley, Grant and Allardyce are also thought to be
under consideration at the Stadium of Light. The chances are that Quinn will hold his nerve, relying on his club’s greater pulling power to hold sway. But with the Wearsiders having made it known they have so many candidates, it would be a brave out-of-work manager who turns down Blackburn in the hoping of getting the Black Cats job without having been offered it.
Despite being a former Sunderland player and coach, Allardyce is not thought to be high on Quinn’s list of candidates and anyway he does not appear interested in taking charge of another north west club with a small fanbase, as he did at Bolton Wanderers.
Allardyce was overlooked for the job when Ince was appointed in the summer, and has made no secret of his interest in managing Sunderland.
“As far as I am concerned, there was a chance that I talked to Blackburn when it was between me, Paul Ince and Steve McClaren,” Allardyce said at the weekend. “But that has been the sum total of any contact between me and Blackburn since. There’s nothing in it at the moment.
“There’s been no contact between me and Sunderland. But I’d like to talk to them.”
Meanwhile, Charlton have extended the loan stay of teenager striker Martyn Waghorn until January 17.
The 18-year-old, who scored his first senior goal in Monday night’s 2-2 draw against Derby, joined the Addicks on an initial one-month loan deal in November.
Sbragia indicated last week he would consider recalling some of the 11 players Sunderland currently have out on loan early.
With 18-year-old Waghorn due back from his spell at Championship side Charlton this week, it was thought he would also be brought back into the fold.
But after Waghorn scored his first goal for the Addicks in Monday’s 2-2 draw with Derby County, caretaker manager Phil Parkinson revealed he hoped to keep the promising forward for longer.
“I’ve spoken to Sunderland caretaker manager Ricky Sbragia. He’s happy for him to stay,” he revealed.
“His attitude alone will get him a good career in this game, not only has he got a good attitude and work ethic, he’s got great ability as well.”